Cedar Falls, IA. -- A 14-2 run by home standing Northern Iowa (13-11, 6-6) midway through the second half proved to be the difference as the Panthers held off Missouri State, 48-37, in a Missouri Valley Conference defensive dog fight at McLeod Center.
After Christian Kirk gave MSU (7-17, 5-7) a 29-26 lead with 11:30 left in the game, UNI reeled off 14 of the game's next 16 points over the next seven-and-a-half minutes. The Panthers' advantage reached 40-31 on a 3-pointer by Chip Rank with 4:19 to go.
Keith Pickens' put-back at the four-minute mark kept the Bears within seven, but UNI ignited with another three-ball from Marc Sonnen -- his only trey of the night -- and a layup by Jake Koch to push the home club back ahead 47-35.
The Bears were led by Anthony Downing with 9 points as they were held to an all-time low point production in Valley play. Dorrian Williams and Christian Kirk added 8 points apiece. Downing and Drew Wilson added 7 rebounds to the MSU ledger as the visitors out-rebounded UNI, 35-31, including 12 offensive boards.
The Bears were 15-for-55 (.273) from the field, 3-for-21 (.143) from bonus distance and 4-for-4 in limited free throw opportunities. The Bears committed just 6 turnovers on the night.
UNI was led by Anthony James with 14 points and 10 boards, while Koch added 11.
The Panthers finished 16-for-40 (.400) from the field and 5-of-19 (.263) from long range. The Panthers had 8 turnovers and made 11-of-14 (.786) at the line.
In the first half, Missouri State executed a near-perfect defensive game plan, but home standing Northern Iowa benefited from a pair of unusual technical fouls to push ahead 20-19 at the intermission.
MSU had an answer for every UNI rally, leading by as many as five points after Williams knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers over the span of two minutes, 25 seconds. Williams' second trey of the half gave the Bears a 17-13 lead with 3:24 to go.
UNI responded with a trey of its own with Matt Bohannon drilling a long-range shot with 2:32 on the clock to bring UNI back within one.
On its next possession, MSU ran an alley-oop play for Wilson who missed the dunk but was whistled for hanging on the rim too long in effort to protect himself. James knocked down both subsequent penalty free throws to give the Panthers their first lead of the night, 18-17.
Forty-five seconds later, the Bears got the ball to Wilson on the low blocks again. This time, he forced through a one-handed jam to give the lead back to the visitors. But, the officials whistled him for his second technical foul for taunting, sending James back to the line for two more free throws to give UNI the one-point halftime edge.
The Bears now travel to Wichita State on Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. tipoff at Koch Arena against the Shockers (19-5, 8-4).
It was a tough weekend for our local teams in Blue Springs.
Both Springfield Catholic and Nixa went 0-for-2 on the weekend, forcing them to settle for fourth place in Class 3 and Class 1 respectively.
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